Assisted suicide debate continues
Parliament is currently debating the challenging and highly-charged issue of assisted suicide and euthanasia. The government has proposed Bill C-14 — a bill which they are trying to push through quickly in order to meet the Supreme Court-imposed deadline of June 6. It is unfortunate that we have such little time to deal with this. The government could have, and should have, introduced legislation much earlier. Nonetheless, we have to deal with the situation that we now face.
I have heard a wide variety of different opinions from constituents on assisted suicide and euthanasia. Many of you oppose the bill because of fundamental philosophical objections to state-sanctioned killing, or because of the concern that fool-proof practical safeguards are impossible.
Others have expressed support in certain cases. But even these tell me that they would support euthanasia only under certain strict criteria, including that the patients be confirmed to be of sound mind, that their consent be verified, that their illness be assuredly terminal, that they be offered a full range of other care options, and that they be suffering intense and enduring physical pain.
I respect the opinions of all, both supporters and opponents of this practice. I note that nobody in this riding seems to want legalized suicide for anyone, anywhere. Even advocates of euthanasia support a robust system of restrictions.
Notably, this new bill does not itself legalize euthanasia. For better or worse, that legalization has already been set up to happen as a result of a court decision. I am opposing this legislation, therefore, not principally as a result of underlying philosophical concerns, but rather because of practical concerns about the gross inadequacy of the safeguards in this legislation.
The criteria given are quite ambiguous. They require that death be “reasonably foreseeable.” But death is foreseeable for all of us. When I was learning to drive, I think my mother thought that death was reasonably foreseeable every time we got in the car.
The legislation allows suicide as a result of psychological suffering, but does not require a psychiatric assessment. The legislation notes a waiting period and a desire for written consent, but both of those requirements can be waived in a fairly wide set of circumstances.
The bill requires that a person seeking death get the sign-off from two doctors and that there be two witnesses. Unfortunately, there are no provisions to prevent “doctor-shopping.” A prospective client, or a member of their family, could search the Internet for doctors with the most permissive interpretation of the legal criteria.
I have participated actively in the debate about this issue, calling for, at the very least, a few simple amendments which will help to protect the vulnerable. I believe that there should be a clear process for advanced legal review in every case, and that the criteria should be given greater clarity. In the absence of these basic safeguards, I think most constituents would agree that the existing bill is far too dangerous for vulnerable people.
Garnett Genuis is the member of Parliament for Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 780-467-4944. His office is located in the Park Place Professional Centre, Unit No. 214. Genuis was first elected in October 2015.
Published: Thursday, May 5, 2016